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Yan Li

Research Findings

A Double Bind for Asian American Women in Leadership?

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November 11, 2019

Women face a double bind when they are in leadership positions. They are expected to be competent and authoritative, but others often see their authoritative behavior as overly dominant, and a violation of gender stereotypes. In other words, women face a “dominance penalty” when they act authoritatively, but they face questions about their competence when they do not act authoritatively. Research has documented this double bind in a number of settings, but these studies have by and large focused on white women. 

Recent research challenges the universality of the dominance penalty, and suggests that race and gender intersect to shape reactions to authoritative behavior. For example, recent studies have shown that in a professional workplace context, black women who demonstrate high levels of competence face less backlash when they behave authoritatively than do comparable white women or black men. 

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